For the uninitiated, “My Super Sweet 16,” in a nutshell, is basically what’s wrong with the youth of America. It’s not bad enough that these spoiled, bubbly-letter princesses expect to be thrown lavish birthday parties, but the douchedads and trollop moms are so goddamn smug and amenable that it’s them you want to take out behind the woodshed and unleash a bag of switches upon. What’s worse, at least in my mind, is the number of idiot hangers-on who choose to cling to the birthday girls, and the acne-addled dejected who aren’t even cool enough to be contrarian about it. In the hellish world of “My Super Sweet Sixteen,” everyone wants to be like the birthday girl; there are no gothy counter-culture cliques or punk-rock kids who might reject the mentality behind these parties. There are only the haves — who demand, and cajole, and sulk, and squeal like brats with silver spoons shoved into their alimentary canals — and the slavering have-nots, the truly pathetic who actually aspire to be like them.
The episode I chose to review concerned a bubbly blight on adolescent America, a girl named Savannah, as in “Lights, Camera, Savannah!” Her hair color clearly comes in a bottle, and her chest size from one of those implant drive-thrus they have out in Cali (I feel bad suggesting a 15-year-old girl has implants, but Jesus: In post-apocalyptic America, grave robbers are gonna fetch a handsome price for those puppies). Naturally, she’s an O.C. girl, though if there is one thing I can say for “My Super Sweet 16,” it’s that there’s plenty of diversity: The show features spoiled bitches of all color and stripe: black, white, and even an Iranian-American girl, who was given a stretch Range Rover for her 16th, only to leave it parked in her driveway because it was too big to drive around (she motors around in her mom’s Caddy, instead). There’s even an episode featuring a girl from Little Rock, Arkansas (per capita income $23,000), who could’ve used the cash from her military-themed party to single-handedly put a dent in Little Rock’s 15 percent poverty rate (her jewelry alone cost $165,000 — “Daddy didn’t give me no budget.”). But, you know: Fuck her. And fuck all these bratty twits — they’re not the type to consider anyone but themselves, a habit most picked up from their fathers, who arrange extravagant parties with fake volcanoes in lieu of actual affection, what with being too busy living the goddamn American Dream to do any actual parenting.
Anyway, the beginning of each episode offers a few minutes in which we get to know the birthday girl (or, occasionally, boy), and here, Savannah brags that, “to be a California girl, it takes blonde hair, blue eyes, and a tan. And I have it all.” Savannah claims that “a lot of girls are jealous because of my looks,” though she never considers for a second that girls may not like her because she’s an obnoxious, plasticized fuckwit whose idea of friendship is allowing someone to hold her hair while she regurgitates one of Little Caesars’ gourmet pizza pizzas. “I’m upbeat, I’m happy. And I love shopping,” she exclaims, offering a glimpse into her Playmate Centerfold bio, in five … two year’s time. “Being this cute is a problem these days,” she says without the smallest trace of irony. God Almighty, I hate this girl. Who could raise such a prissy little hellspawn?
That answer arrives in the next segment, in which we meet Savannah’s mother, who makes Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler’s Mom) look positively granola. Someone must have tapped the Alaskan oil reserves to create all the plastic beneath this woman’s cosmetically-deranged epidermis. One of the points of contention in this week’s episode seems to be Savannah’s fear that her mother will overshadow her at her own Sweet 16. “I just hope she realizes this party is about me,” Savannah says. “This is my time to shine.” Clearly, Savannah’s concerns are well-founded — throughout the episode, we return to this theme, when 1) Mom — who must be a former porn star of some sort — insists that she’ll have bigger jewelry than her daughter while giving the camera a knowing look that says, “Fuck me world. Fuck me long and hard and on your M Televisions”; 2) when her mother insists on trying on her daughter’s favorite entrance dress, an $8,000 tiger-print gown that makes her look like 12-inch hot dog stuffed into an eight inch bun; and 3) later in the show, when Savannah asks her gaggle of stylists to make her look better than her mom, clearly afraid that her mother would otherwise steal her fawning admirers. It’s a weird, unfamiliar mother-daughter dynamic, though I suspect it’s common amongst over-the-hill starletards who are deathly afraid their daughters are encroaching upon their territory, though this particular mother may need a wheelbarrow to haul her breasts to the party.
In each of these Sweet 16 parties, all of the birthday girls insist that their party will go down in history, as if historians spend their spare moments documenting gaudiness and excess. Here, Savannah promises to have “the greatest 16th birthday party. Ever,” as if this was a noble, ambitious goal. Themes on “My Super Sweet 16” vary, though they are all equally unapologetic in their gluttonous exorbitance — princess themes are common, though Savannah, whose father’s game room is riddled with exotic wildlife taxidermied to the hilt, chooses a Jungle theme. (My fondest wish: That her party planners mistakenly give her the Upton Sinclair version.) The venue, appropriately, seems to be some wildlife preserve nestled comfortably in Laguna Beach. Oh, and guess what: There’s gonna be an oxygen bar at her party. That’s right — her parents are going to pay thousands of dollars for air!
Before the party, however, invitations must be handed out, and even this task is taken to the extreme. In Savannah’s case, a throng of teenagers is assembled at the beach and asked to await Savannah’s grand entrance, which she performs while lying on a party boat, Pamela-Anderson style. Once she makes her way to the beach, she allows the potential guests to search amongst the Tiki torches for invitations, which look to be laminated photos of her in tiger-print underclothing. Presumably, only the luckiest few are invited, and it is those people who jump around with the same sort of fervor one would expect from a dying man who has finally reached the top of the kidney-donor list.
After this, Savannah meets with a couple of exotic animal handlers who parade out a tiger, a monkey, a bear cub, and a scary motherfucking cougar, which she insists on having: “Mom — this would put it over the top. There’s no way you can say no.” Her mother, of course, cannot — clearly, she hasn’t said “no” to anyone since giant-donged men hoovered coke lines off her back during her Boogie Night days. Following this segment, Savannah trollops around a couple of car dealerships with her Dad — an anthropomorphic beer gut — sidling up to his arm and batting her eyelashes when the dealer says that the BMW she simply must have costs $48,000, which is only a fraction of the $300,000 spent on her birthday-party jewelry.
It is leading up toward the party where the editors of “My Super Sweet 16” usually try in earnest to work up some fake dramatics; in the Little Rock episode, there was a fear the girl’s party would be canceled after the fire department had to be called in to tend to the fake volcano. Here, however, the dramatics are even pettier: The jewelry is late in arriving, and Savannah refuses to make her grand entrance without them. “I need my diamonds. They better get here before we go.” Foot stomp. They arrive, of course, just as Savannah is being whisked away in a stretch Hummer, where one of her closeted private-school classmates squeals, “Ohmygod, you look like Britney in Toxic.” That’s a compliment?
The parties themselves are generally anti-climactic, hardly history-defining. It’s just a jumble of teenagers piled into a room and forced to listen to shitty hip-hop/house music while they rub up against one another and take hits off the oxygen. The grand entrance is made, and the editors splice in several snippets of teenagers utilizing their exclamatory “TRL” speak: “Wooooo! Wooo! Woooo!” Sometimes, as is the case here, the guests of honor have to deal with party-crashers, dumbass kids who aren’t secure enough in their person to stay at home and mock the proceedings for its extravagant lameness. Fortunately, there’s usually enough security to protect the President from a team of Sirhan Sirhans, so the despondent crashers are tossed before their first swig of Red Bull.
And, finally, each episode ends with the birthday girl walking outside and expressing faux surprise at the ridiculously expensive car they’ve been gifted. This, each episode’s capper, is the ultimate symbol of American’s consumerist culture, the belief — likely propagated by car dealerships around the country — that, indeed, parental affection can be bought, and that instant popularity comes with two doors, bejeweled fuzzy dice, and 9.6 miles per gallon. Like an old Western, before the credits roll, the girl drives away into the sunset as, once again, the editors cut to the drooling teens, who express envy and admiration for the birthday girl’s good fortunes (these classmates and friends never articulate even an iota of bitterness or rage, though I suspect most of them are just biding their time until they are feted with the same extravagancies). And it never once occurs to these girls that, on teevees across this great land of ours, she’d be the object of scorn and ridicule, though the Romans likely took little notice of the Ostrogoths before the crumble of the Empire, either. They probably just thought that Odaecer was a jealous little bitch.
So, yeah: I hate this show. And I hate even more the sense of entitlement it instills in the current generation of teenagers, who approach their 16th birthdays either expecting one of these parties, or fantasizing about it. I don’t even know which is worse. But, I can tell you that if ‘lil Pajiba ever came to me and asked for a fountain and a low-rent hip hop star for his 16th birthday, I’d tell the little punchkin that the sweetest thing he’s likely to get is a goddamn Carvel Ice Cream cake and a boot to the ass. And if he wants a theme, we’ll get a cake with “Peanuts” characters on it.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife and son in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.
"My Super Sweet 16" / Dustin Rowles
TV | October 25, 2007 | Comments ()